The federal government has conferred Nigerian citizenship on 385 foreign nationals from different continents across the world.
The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, made this known at the 1st 2023 Conferment ceremony of Nigeria Citizenship by Naturalisation and Registration on Saturday in Abuja.
The minister said one of the objectives of the present administration was to lay a solid socio-economic and political foundation that would elevate Nigeria into one of the 20 great economies of the world.
He said to achieve this vision, the federal government was determined to encourage and attract foreigners, investors, resourceful individuals and people with rare talents and unbounded energy into the country.
“Today’s conferment ceremony will be granted to 385 foreigners who have gone through diligent checks by the relevant agencies of state as stipulated by the constitution and have fulfilled all statutory and administrative requirements.
“I need to state that the acquisition of the Nigerian citizenship is a great privilege and not everyone that applies becomes successful.
“However, that we have a high number of foreigners willing to become Nigerians is an indication that the ongoing efforts to make Nigeria a destination for investment and peaceful coexistence is beginning to yield good fruits.
“As we continue to welcome foreigners to do business here who, after interacting with us, are now desirous of becoming one of us.”
The minister said that it was under the present administration that the largest number of foreigners had been naturalised.
“Between 2011 and 2013, a total of 266 foreigners became Nigerians. In 2017, 335 people took up Nigerian citizenship.
“But last year, 286 foreigners and today at this ceremony, 385, making a total of 671 have acquired Nigerian citizenship.
“I am still not pleased with this figure. In Europe and America, thousands of foreigners are inducted into citizenship every year.
“They do this to attract youths and people in their prime who would like to contribute to the development of their countries.
“The bane of the smooth pathway to Nigerian citizenship however is the constitutional requirement of continuous residency in Nigeria for 15 years.”
This, he said, was a huge disincentive, considering that in the U.S. and most European countries, it is five years.
Mr Aregbesola added that some of these countries have made a habit of snatching young and resourceful brains, who after four years of schooling and working for just one year, through easy pathways, to obtain migration to their countries.
He, therefore, urged the relevant institutions of state to reconsider this in the next effort at an amendment to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“We ought to have easier pathways to citizenship for foreigners than currently obtains.
“Also, while the foreign wives of Nigerian men can automatically become citizens through registration, this same privilege is not available to foreign husbands of Nigerian women.
“This discrimination has robbed us of the gains we could have gotten from this category of foreigners, if there is a pathway for them through registration, as obtains for their opposite sex.”
According to him, the Interior Ministry has sought and got the approval of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to execute new pathways to permanent residency for eligible foreign nationals.
Mr Aregbesola added that the ministry had been invested with the power to grant permanent residence to foreign nationals who had demonstrated exceptional talents, knowledge and skills in rare fields of Science, Technology and Medicine, among others.
He expressed optimism that such privilege would no doubt attract more people of talent and resources to the nation and give them the confidence and assurance to stay permanently in Nigeria.
The minister, however, congratulated the new Nigerians who have scaled the hurdle to proudly become Nigerians, adding that Nigerians are among the greatest people on the earth and well-revered across the globe.
He assured them that they would not regret the decision they have made to become Nigerians, reminding them, however, that every privilege goes with responsibility.
“You will be required to make the best contribution ever to Nigeria’s development in every area, including the defence of its territorial integrity if need be and promotion of the welfare of the people.”
He, however, welcomed them all to Nigerian citizenship.
President Muhammadu Buhari, represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, while conferring citizenship on them, urged them to be good ambassadors of Nigeria.
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